NUS’ online graduation ceremonies kick off
The university is celebrating the graduation of more than 23,500 students from the Class of 2020 and 2021
When his physical classes at the university were put on hold in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore last year, Mr Vincent Cai joined the Ministry of Health's contact tracing task group .
The student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) joined the communicable diseases division at the ministry in late 2019, a month before the first cases of Covid were reported in Wuhan, and calls it a "once-in-a-lifetime experience".
A natural extension of his past experience with surveillance and reporting of droplet-borne diseases during his postgraduate studies at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Mr Cai soon found himself in multiple roles related to Singapore's contact tracing efforts.
The 31-year-old graduated with a master's in public health, and was among Saturday's graduands.
It was the first of NUS' 60 online ceremonies that will see more than 23,500 students from the Class of 2020 and 2021 graduating. Those from the class of 2020 had their graduation postponed to this year.
Being in the public healthcare sector during the pandemic also strengthened Mr Cai's resolve to contribute to its continual progress.
He told The New Paper: "This year, I am determined to continue our fight until we reach the light at the end of the tunnel. I see it both as a privilege and a duty to contribute to Singapore's national effort of bringing Covid-19 under control."
He added: "While it can get tough at times, I leave my office feeling accomplished and fulfilled every night."
Mr Cai reprioritised his studies in June last year at the peak of Singapore's pandemic and spent every waking hour juggling that with the demands of contact tracing work. He saw his loved ones only for brief periods when he worked the night shifts.
Still, he embraces that phase of his life as he has "grown to become more resilient" and learnt to cherish those around him more.
Similarly, Mr Chan Wei Zhang, who will be graduating from NUS with a degree in computing (information security) next month and will be starting work as a software engineer, saw his struggles as a chance to grow.
As a child, he did not like to study and scored 109 for PSLE, which landed him in the Normal Technical stream in secondary school.
He went on to pursue info-communications technology and information technology at the Institute of Technical Education and Republic Polytechnic respectively.
After applying to NUS School of Computing twice, he made it his goal to graduate from there to prove people who had negative stereotypes of the less academically inclined wrong.
While Mr Chan, 28, was initially apprehensive about being able to cope in NUS due to his educational background, "it turned out to be a lot better than expected".
He said: "Don't compare yourself with others because there will always be others who are better than you. If you try, but fall short, it is not the end of the world. There are always opportunities for you to grow."